Last week I spent three days in Toronto at the annual Ontario Library Association Super Conference. And yes, it is a literal super conference, this is not hyperbole. Thousands of speakers and sessions, networking events galore, and a whole lot of library love in the room at all times.
I’ve been attending Super Conference on and off since the late 1990s, when I was but a baby library tech, with big dreams of learning, schmoozing, and drinking way too much coffee with my peers. Both the conference and I have matured over the past fifteen or so years, although to my mind, Super Conference is getting sexier (hello oxygen bar, yoga classes, and style makeovers!) while I am simply getting older (hello sore feet after wearing heels all day, buzzy headache from too much caffeine, and falling asleep at 10:30pm!) But that’s ok. Truly, we can’t all be rockstars.
Over the course of the conference, I attended a variety of sessions on many different topics. 95% of the sessions I saw were fantastic. The other 5% were…less than fantastic. But while it’s true that these 5% didn’t hit it out of the park for me, they certainly had one thing in common with the 95% that I loved: passion.
You are probably thinking, if you’re not already working in the library world, “Um, wut? Libraries and library people as bringers of passion?” But it’s true. It is astoundingly true, in fact.
I heard librarians talk about programs in prisons for incarcerated men and women with so much enthusiasm and passion that I got chills listening to them, and wanted to immediately go out and throw myself at a prison library in the hopes that I could be of service.
I watched librarians become overwhelmed and emotional as they talked about the transformation of their library to be more inclusive of the patients they serve, and more inclusive of diverse and marginalized populations.
I saw baby librarians (fine, not literal babies, babies are not going to library school these days, but holy hell these women were YOUNG) talk about pursuing their dream jobs, all passionate about helping their audience do the same.
I sat in a session where the COO of the goddamn Library and Archives Canada spoke excitedly about the changes coming to the LAC, and how “Oh boy, LAC is back, baby!” while the room erupted into hoots, hollers, and thunderous applause.
And, if I’m honest, I saw myself get excited, all shiny-eyed and hand-wavy as I stood at the lectern and presented MY session, went through my slides, and explained my social media project and what it has done for my clients to the people who were kind enough to come hear me speak.
As I said. Passion.
And I think the reason that it hit me so strongly this year, is that libraries ARE doing it for themselves, with a lot less resources (be it people or money) than ever before.
How then, are they (we) able to exude such excitement when talking about everything from reference statistics to programming for teens? How is all this getting done on shoestring budgets and with limited staff or reduced hours?There are times when we rage. Oh, we rage. Against management, or budget cuts. Against “the man” or whoever it is that doesn’t replace colleagues who retire, or eliminates positions or programs.
It all comes down to the people we serve. Libraries are for the people they serve and library people want nothing more than to bring the services and information to these people. No matter who they are.
If you’ve ever been to a Hard Rock Cafe location, you’ll have seen the sign above the door that reads “Love All, Serve All”, and I have always felt that this is kind of a library’s motto as well. It doesn’t matter what type of library, or where it is located, if you’re part of that library’s client/patron/student/patient/customer base? We love you. And we want to serve you.
It is this passion for providing service and information that drives us. It’s also this passion that can frustrate us when we’re not able to provide the level of service we want to to be able to provide, when circumstances cause us to cancel programs or close doors. It is this passion that drives me, personally, and it is this passion I witnessed in abundance last week at OLASC16.
There is always at least one point during Super Conference where I look around and think “These are my people. Whatever happens, whatever path I take, whatever direction my life goes, I will always have these people, I will always be one of these people.” And this year was no exception. More than ever I am passionate about the profession I’ve chosen, and more than ever I know what I want to do in order to keep driving forward with enthusiasm, with excitement, and yes, with passion.
Thank you, my library people. It will always be a privilege to count myself among you.